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Central Railroad Company of New Jersey records

Creation: 1839-1973
Accession: 1869


The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey operated a main line between New York and Scranton with numerous branches within the state of New Jersey. It was one of the more important anthracite-carrying railroads, with important commuter and terminal facilities in the New York area. The collection primarily consists a set of incomplete minutes of parent, predecessor, and subsidiary companies.


  • Creation: 1839-1973


27 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey (CNJ) operated a main line between New York and Scranton with numerous branches within the state of New Jersey. It was one of the more important anthracite-carrying railroads, with important commuter and terminal facilities in the New York area. It was an important ally of the Philadelphia & Reading and the Baltimore & Ohio, with which it formed serveral important through routes, particularly between New York and Philadelphia and New York and Harrisburg, Pennslyvania. The Reading operated it outright under lease from 1883 to 1886 and 1892 and controlled it by majority stock ownership after 1901. Coal mines acquired from 1872 to 1873 were surrendered under antitrust prosecution in 1923.

The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey was incorporated on February 26, 1847 as the Somerville and Easton Railroad Company. It was renamed on April 23, 1849 upon purchasing the property of the Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad. The railroad was completed from Elizabethport to Easton on July 2, 1852. At first, the CNJ acted as the New York outlet for both the Lehigh Valley and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroads, but they acquired their own outlets to tidewater in 1871 and 1868, respectively. To compensate for the loss of coal tonnage, the CNJ leased the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad from the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company in 1871. Like the other anthracite railroads, the CNJ also acquired coal mines, which were vested in the subsidiary Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company in 1873.

The CNJ could not long survive the collapse of the anthracite industry or the burden of high taxes and terminal and commuter service costs in the inflationary post-Depression environment. It entered its fourth and final bankruptcy on March 22, 1967. State subsidies kept the most essential commuter services running, while the lease of the Pennsylvania lines was surrendered in 1972. The viable portions of the line, mostly trackage serving industries in the Newark-Perth Amboy area, were sold to Conrail in 1976, and the commuter main lines eventually passed into the hands of New Jersey Transit. The company then disposed of its remaining real estate and was reorganized as Central Jersey Industries, Inc. on September 14, 1979. Its successor was merged into the Pechiney Corporation on January 13, 1989.


Part I. Parent company corporate records (1886-1972);

Part II. Parent company miscellany;

Part III. Maps;

Part IV. Predecessor and subsidiary company records (1839-1973).

Scope and Content

The collection consists of the surviving records of the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey that came into the possession of Conrail. The greater part of the company's records were destroyed during the 1967 to 1979 trusteeship. Minutes of the parent company are incomplete. The oldest are minute books from the 1886 to 1888 receivership of John S. Kennedy and Joseph S. Harris which describe the rehabilitation of the property. The remaining minutes (1913-1917, 1933-1950) generally contain a perfunctory list of improvements, betterments, and retirements to property.

The miscellany includes a copy of the 1947 reorganization plan, a report to the state on the preservation of essential services (1972), a report on the obstruction to navigation posed by the company's Newark Bay Bridge (1971), and a 1965 employees' timetable.

The maps include a complete set of the original ICC valuation maps showing all railroad track, structures and property as of 1916. There are also a series of system schematic maps, key maps, and profiles prepared for the valuation, including a map showing the complex conflicting land claims on the Jersey City waterfront. There is also an incomplete set of track and property maps for the Lehigh & Susquehann Division from circa 1899 to 1900, along with town maps of Nesquehoning and South Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and a plan of the Ashley Shops.

Minutes are also available for most of the predecessor and subsidiary companies, although some of the oldest were lost at an early date. The oldest and perhaps most interesting minutes to survive are those of the Elizabethport & New York Ferry Company of 1839. These give some account of the activities of New Yorkers, including Cornelius Vanderbilt, to develop Elizabethport and aid the struggling Elizabethtown & Somerville Railroad. There is also a copy of Jay Gould's plan for the reorganization of the New Jersey Southern Railroad Company (1873).

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Litigators may not view the collection without approval.

Use Restrictions

Literary rights retained by depositors.

Related Materials

Reading Company records (Accession 1520), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company records (Manuscript Group 311), Pennsylvania State Archives

Language of Materials


Additional Description


On Deposit from American Premier Underwriters, Inc.

Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Central Railroad Company of New Jersey records
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA